The Competition Bureau's month in review — 2018
CB in Brief is an electronic publication, distributed regularly to media and stakeholders to provide a snapshot of recent news and developments.
Quebec Court of Appeal reverses lower court sentences, imposes hard prison time for collusion targeting government contracts
The Quebec Court of Appeal handed down prison terms ranging from 18 to 36 months for 3 individuals who colluded to obtain public works contracts worth more than $15 million. The ruling reversed the lower court's sentences of conditional terms to be served in the community.
In a decision released on November 16, 2018, the Court of Appeal found that the trial judge was wrong to minimize the seriousness of the crimes committed, which included fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, forgery, use of forged documents and conspiracy to make and use forged documents.
The court proceedings followed a joint investigation by the Competition Bureau and Quebec's Permanent Anti-corruption Unit (UPAC). The investigation related to a system of collusion that targeted public works contracts with municipalities in the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu region of Quebec.
Bureau takes centre stage at international event
Left to right:
- Rene Augustine, Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice;
- Josephine Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner, Deceptive Marketing Practices, Competition Bureau;
- Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice;
- Matthew Boswell, Interim Commissioner of Competition;
- Jeanne Pratt, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Mergers and Monopolistic Practices Branch, Competition Bureau;
- Leila Wright, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Competition Promotion Branch, Competition Bureau.
Bureau takes centre stage at international event
On October 10, 2018, Interim Commissioner Matthew Boswell delivered a speech at the Global Series 2018 conference in Ottawa to discuss the Bureau's continuing mission of fostering competition and innovation.
Interim Commissioner Boswell explained that the Bureau helps the Canadian economy thrive by enforcing the law fairly and predictably and by consulting Canadians on current issues like FinTech, big data and broadband internet services. He also emphasised the importance of intellectual property laws in today's market, as they provide incentives for innovation and technological diffusion. To keep pace with changing markets, the Bureau will update its Intellectual Property Enforcement Guidelines and will invite Canadians to provide their feedback.
Interim Commissioner Boswell's speech followed an address by Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The two representatives met to discuss matters of interest to the Canadian and American markets. In a global economy where anti-competitive conduct can easily cross border, collaboration with international counterparts is becoming increasingly important for the Bureau.
The Global Series provides a forum for government representatives, industry leaders and law experts from all over the world to address emerging challenges in a timely manner by exchanging best practices and experiences.
The Compliance Unit's work is put into the spotlight
Terence Stechysin, Acting Director of Compliance, was featured in the July 2018 edition of Compliance & Ethics Professional. This trade publication for members of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics is at the forefront of corporate compliance issues.
In this feature piece, Stechysin highlighted that, "compliance programs are a central part of the Bureau's vision for 'shared compliance'." This concept recognizes that all stakeholders—the Bureau, the legal and business communities, and the broader network of enforcement agencies—have a role to play in promoting compliance with the Competition Act. These groups can all help foster an efficient, competitive and open marketplace.
The Bureau's Compliance Unit has played an increasingly important role in emphasizing that businesses should take a proactive approach when promoting compliance with the Act. Since the launch of the Corporate Compliance Programs bulletin in 2015, the Compliance Unit has engaged in more than 100 outreach events. "This Unit has helped build and leverage relationships and significantly raised our profile with key groups, such as small and medium-sized enterprises and public procurement professionals," Stechysin said.
Interchange with Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ends
As part of an interchange, the Competition Bureau welcomed Rami Greiss from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to its senior management team last June.
Rami took over the role of Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Cartels and Deceptive Marketing Practices Branch. He worked on major cases such as the investigation into alleged cases of bread price fixing and deceptive marketing in ticket sales.
In his brief time with the Bureau, Rami made a difference. "His talent to bring people together and to help everyone achieve their best is a testament to his supportive leadership style. Not only does he leave a very positive mark on the Bureau, but the results of his insight, initiative and direction will also endure," said Matthew Boswell, Interim Commissioner of Competition. "His genuine approach combined with his wealth of experience and knowledge meant that he was able to hit the ground running when he arrived."
As the interchange comes to a close, the Bureau's staff and management team would like to thank Rami and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.
We would also like take this opportunity to welcome Jeanne Pratt back to the Bureau. After spending a year in Rami's position in Australia as Executive General Manager, Merger and Authorisation Review, Jeanne will return to her role as Senior Deputy Commissioner, Mergers and Monopolistic Practices Branch on July 16.
This interchange would not have been possible without a strong, collaborative relationship with the ACCC. Exchanges with other agencies around the world help build employee relationships, allow organizations to share best practices and improve collaboration on enforcement matters.
For more information, consult the news release about Rami's arrival, the page dedicated to the Bureau's international efforts and the ACCC's website.
Guilty plea in bid-rigging of provincial street lighting contracts in Québec
Benoît Montgrain, former president of Lampadaires Feralux Inc. and Agence BMP, pleaded guilty on June 27, 2018, to two counts of bid-rigging on contracts for street lights in the Province of Québec.
Mr. Montgrain admitted to submitting two bids, one to the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec in 2004 and another to the Ministère des Transport du Québec in 2009, that were the result of an agreement with his competitor.
The Competition Bureau's investigation benefitted from its Immunity Program, one of its most effective tools for detecting and investigating bid-rigging and other criminal cartel activities.
Competition Bureau fosters exchanges between competition agencies
The Competition Bureau helped bring together global experts in competition and economics at the Competition Economics Workshop for Chief and Senior Economists between May 2 and 4. Conference participants benefitted from the opportunity to discuss emerging issues and share best practices. International exchanges such as this one are crucial for Canadians operating businesses abroad, as they foster more consistency and transparency in the way competition agencies operate.
The Bureau worked with the OECD Korea Policy Centre to organize this event as co-chair of the International Competition Network's (ICN) Agency Effectiveness Working Group. This event was the first joint ICN-OECD event, and demonstrated the value of close cooperation at the international level.
The ICN has many working groups through which competition agencies exchange enforcement experiences and develop practical guidance. The ICN also encourages the participation of non-governmental advisors. Visit the Bureau's international resources page for information on how to participate in the ICN's working groups.
Join the fight against cartels!
Today the Competition Bureau celebrates Anti-Cartel Day 2018 and invites you to take action to stop collusion!
Agreements among competitors to fix prices, allocate markets, restrict supply and rig bids are illegal. They have a negative impact on Canadians and businesses as they lead to higher prices, less innovation and fewer product choices. The best way for businesses to ensure they play by the rules is to put in place a credible and effective corporate compliance program.
Although secret cartel agreements are hard to detect, the Bureau is committed to get concrete results for Canadians. As you may have heard recently, the Bureau is pursuing investigations across many markets, such as retail bread, wild blueberries and newspapers.
We invite anyone who suspects anti-competitive conduct to report it to the Bureau by filing a complaint, becoming a whistleblower, providing a tip on federal contracting fraud or by seeking immunity or leniency. Since the launch of the Tip Line a year ago, more than 140 people have used this tool to provide information on alleged federal contracting fraud.
Learn more today and take action against cartels:
- The Commissioner's Op Ed on price-fixing
- The Bureau's blog post on collusion for the Canada Business Network
- The Commissioner's Anti-Cartel Day video (2015)
- Video on cartels : What you don't know can hurt you
- Take a look at our Anti-Cartel Day messages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
Big data paper recognized at the 2018 Antitrust Writing Awards
The Competition Bureau's white paper entitled Big data and Innovation: Implications for Competition Policy in Canada was recognized as a winner in the "Soft Laws" category at the recent 2018 Antitrust Writing Awards ceremony. This category acknowledges the most innovative non-enforcement tools such as guidelines, market studies, and white papers, published by competition agencies.
The Bureau is committed to keeping pace with new issues in the rapidly developing digital economy. We published this paper in September 2017 as part of our commitment to engage in a discussion with Canadians on emerging challenges while supporting innovation and competition in the marketplace.
Commissioner of Competition, John Pecman, accepted the award on April 10 while in Washington DC for the American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law Spring Meeting. The Bureau's T.D. MacDonald Chair in Industrial Economics, Paul Johnson, was also a winner in the economics category of "Business Articles" for his item Should we be concerned that data and algorithms will soften competition?
Sustaining the international dialogue on antitrust issues
Terry Stechysin, Acting Director of Compliance at the Competition Bureau, joined academics, experts and the representatives of antitrust authorities from many jurisdictions for the Eurasian Antitrust Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan in late February.
The Forum focused on the best practices in creating and applying antitrust policies. Discussions also touched on the issues surrounding cartel agreements in procurement. Terry participated in two panels and discussed effective compliance methods and standards.
The event was hosted by the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Association of Competition and Goods Markets Development as well as the JSC "Center of Development and Protection of Competition Policy" between February 27 and 28, 2018.
Compliance programs help businesses abide by competition laws and play an important part in building competitive and innovative economies. For more information, please consult our webpage on corporate compliance programs.
Competition Bureau engages with the global competition leadership and builds strong relationships in Vietnam
At the end of the month of March, the Bureau advocated for the global convergence of sound competition practices at the 17th Annual Conference of the International Competition Network (ICN) in New Delhi, India. John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition, took part in a workshop on compliance and moderated a plenary session on vertical mergers featuring leaders from the competition agencies of France, Japan, the United Kingdom, the European Commission and the United States. He was joined by Elisabeth Lang, the Bureau's Chief of Staff, who moderated a discussion on the use of sanctions to deter cartel activity and promote competition.
The Bureau plays a leadership role in the ICN as a member of the ICN Steering Group, co-chair of the ICN's Agency Effectiveness Working Group and the ICN Secretariat.
Before returning to Canada, Commissioner Pecman met with the competition authority, the business community, and law associations of Vietnam in an effort to strengthen the Bureau's relations with regional stakeholders. Commissioner Pecman was accompanied by Jonathan Chaplan, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel at the Bureau's Legal Services.
Strong international relationships are crucial to improving the Bureau's ability to enforce the law in an increasingly global marketplace.
Don't put your business at risk: Get the facts about collusion and cartels
Take a look at the Bureau's latest blog post on the Canada Business Network.
Annual Internet Sweep focusses on Terms and Conditions in the digital economy
Last month, the Competition Bureau and international partners conducted their annual sweep of the internet. This year's target was Terms and Conditions in the digital economy and the Bureau's sweep focussed on online video platforms and streaming services.
Terms and Conditions contain important information about licensing, pricing, quality, refunds, and use of private information, to name but a few. They effectively frame transactions and form a contract between consumers and the platform administrator.
Terms and Conditions can benefit consumers and businesses by bringing more clarity and transparency to a transaction. Unfortunately, they can also mean bad news if they are not transparent or complete.
The sweep is aimed at identifying websites and applications that may use deceptive Terms and Conditions as part of their business model. Our follow-up actions may range from opening an investigation, to issuing a consumer alert, to sending a warning or information letter.
Ensuring consumers obtain the information they need to confidently take part in the burgeoning digital economy is a priority for the Bureau.
Businesses with an online presence should make sure that their Terms and Conditions do not raise concerns under the Competition Act.
If you have information about misleading Terms and Conditions, file a complaint with the Bureau. Consumers should also contact their provincial consumer protection agency for information on the recourses available under provincial consumer protection laws.
Remember, always read the Terms and Conditions, even the fine print!
Competition Bureau advocates for best practices in cartel investigation on the world stage
The Commissioner of Competition and other Competition Bureau representatives joined their international counterparts in Paris from February 14 to February 16 to study the practices used to investigate and fight cartels around the world.
The American Bar Association's International Cartel Workshop is recognized globally as the premier cartel conference. The workshop combines practical demonstration and discussions to highlight current developments in cartel enforcement.
Commissioner John Pecman took part in a roundtable discussion with top enforcers from Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, the United States and the European Commission. Matthew Boswell, Senior Deputy Commissioner of Competition, led a demonstration on cooperation between various competition authorities after raids in a hypothetical global cartel investigation.
The Bureau's international efforts are an essential part of its work to protect competition and innovation in the marketplace, combat anti-competitive activities, and promote convergence around sound and predictable policies and practices.
Competition Bureau promotes the use of economics in competition enforcement in the Asia-Pacific
Ryan Jakubowski, a Senior Economist with the Competition Bureau, traveled to Da Nang, Vietnam between January 18 and 20 to participate in a workshop organized by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's (APEC) Economic Committee as part of a year-long project spearheaded by the Vietnamese government to promote the greater use of economic evidence in competition policy and enforcement.
The workshop brought together academics, officials and regulators from different parts of the Asia-Pacific region and around the world to exchange best practices, which will enhance the capacity to use economic evidence and contribute to more effective and consistent competition enforcement. Jakubowski led workshop participants through the economic analysis of a hypothetical merger.
Alignment in the use of economics creates more opportunities for enforcement cooperation, and benefits Canadian businesses that operate abroad by providing more consistency and transparency.
The Bureau's international efforts are an essential part of its work to protect competition and innovation in the marketplace, combat anti-competitive activities, and promote convergence around sound, predictable and fair policies and practices.
Competition Bureau promotes pro-competitive regulations for the digital economy
The Competition Bureau's chief economist joined regulators and experts from around the world in Paris on January 31 to promote the reduction of barriers to innovation in the digital economy.
Dr. Paul Johnson, T.D. MacDonald Chair in Industrial Economics, participated in a workshop hosted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to address regulatory and non-regulatory barriers to emerging business models. For example, rapid technology-based advancements have demonstrated that existing regulations can create barriers to innovation and competition in the digital economy, as many were designed for traditional products and services.
Dr. Johnson presented the findings of the Bureau's recently completed market study on the adoption of financial technologies (FinTech). By promoting open access to data and core infrastructure, principles-based regulations and continued harmonization between regulators and policymakers, the Bureau advocates a pro-competitive regulatory approach to the FinTech sector. The principles championed by Dr. Johnson at the OECD workshop aim to build confidence and to support innovation in today's digital economy.
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